Addiction is far more than just a dependence on substances. It’s an experience loaded with spiritual significance, and one that can serve as an important entry point into your journey of self-discovery and universal love. Seeing it in this context helps us understand why holistic addiction recovery is such a profoundly transformative experience – something internationally acclaimed author and presidential candidate Marianne Williamson has recently been bringing to national attention.
A Course in Miracles and Sobriety
Many parallels have been drawn between Marianne Williamson’s teachings, A Course in Miracles (ACIM), and AA’s 12 Steps. “Many people in recovery who were attracted to ACIM,” Williamson explains, “first because the principles are the same; and secondly, because the eleventh step—to seek through prayer and meditation a conscious contact with God—is something ACIM helps accomplish.”
While, in behavioral terms, addiction can be seen as an undesirable pattern (or as ACIM Master Teacher David Hoffmeister puts it, “something you do that you cannot stop”), in the spiritual view, addiction can be understood as a disconnect from The Source. Williamson describes the phenomenon this way: “We think we have many different problems but we really only have one: our separation from God.”
Often, our own ego’s addiction to fear is the driving force behind addictions to substances (drugs and alcohol) and processes (sex, work, gambling, etc.). But the alternative response to that fear, which the spiritual path offers, is one of a more honest relationship with our suffering and nonjudgment towards our own limitations. In fact ACIM’s Hoffmeister asked attendees to a discussion on how to heal addiction what they found most helpful in the process of recovery, and their answers included:
- “Being gentle with yourself.”
- “Not judging yourself.”
- “Cleaning up and releasing the underlying feelings of unworthiness, shame, guilt.”
- “Having a reason to quit more than you want to continue (using).”
While these run counter to our conditioned response of being extra hard on ourselves in an attempt to correct unwanted behavior, the truth is that self-acceptance and love are addiction’s most powerful antidotes.
Suffering is Not a Problem, and it Doesn’t Need to be Solved With Drugs
While modern psychopharmacology tells us that conditions like depression and anxiety are mental illnesses that need to be “fixed” with medication, these are actually natural responses to life’s inevitable dark periods. Spiritual views, on the other hand, recognize the necessity of suffering as the oppositional companion of happiness and an intrinsic part of the human experience. Substance abuse offers instant gratification and pleasure – a tempting distraction from this oft-uncomfortable reality.
Recovering addict Jen McNeely describes her discomfort as feeling “on the edge.” “Before getting sober,” she says, “any day I felt myself getting close to ‘the edge,’ I would quickly medicate with a glass of wine, gin & tonic, martini, beer: or any type of booze around me… All I’d need was that first sip, and like a porcupine that is no longer alarmed, my sharp quills would relax and soften. Whatever feelings had caused my spikes to shoot up would be instantly hushed.”
But that avoidance of suffering is what leads to addiction, and only thwarts our personal growth. “Being with the edge is the work. You have to look at your own darkness before you can get to the light on the other side,” says Williamson.
Pain is important. It sheds light on the barriers in our psyche so that we can deal with them, learn about ourselves and ultimately show up better for others. As Williamson said in a recent interview on Russel Brand’s Under the Skin, “You can’t heal without looking at character defects.” Knowing this, the goal of recovery should be to “create a safe place where those things can be done.”
Understanding our own suffering also allows us to understand that of others, deepening our empathy and sense of connection to the world. Feeling into our pain is part of what purifies our spirit – and as ACIM’s seventh principle states, “Miracles are everyone’s right, but purification is necessary first.”
Addiction Epidemics: Society’s Impact on Personal Suffering
In today’s world of widespread hate, violence, oppression and despair, depression is not a mental illness but an appropriate response to the events occurring around us. The societal problems of today are deeply, undeniably serious – and we should feel anguish as a result.
Coming to terms with that reality is what allows us to access our compassion and address macro-level problems in a way that can create real change. “Miracles are healing because they supply a lack;” says ACIM’s eighth principle. “They are performed by those who temporarily have more for those who temporarily have less.”
Williamson explains the relationship between societal and personal hurt this way: “Many people think their suffering is due only to personal circumstances, without realizing that a larger, hurtful societal conversation affects all of us. Many of our personally painful circumstances are due to larger neurotic or even pathological factors in society and the world.” Our agency lies in how we respond to those conditions. In every moment, we have the power to choose between fear and love, and the choice we make sets off a ripple effect that in turn determines outcomes for those around us and the world at large.
Connection With Others is Connection to God
One of the main hallmarks of addiction is a deep sense of isolation. Through the spiritual lens, we see that this is the result of a detachment from our interconnected, soul-level selves. Williamson explains that the most tangible way we can find this connection again is through our relationships with those around us. “There is no coming to God except for through the person in front of you,” she said in her interview with Russell Brand. “Everyone you meet presents a path to God.”
The goal of doing our inner work, then, is to free up our ability to connect with those around us. By connecting with others in a vulnerable and authentic way, we’re able to sense divinity simply through our love for others. “Miracles occur naturally as expressions of love,” says ACIM’s 10th principle. “The real miracle is the love that inspires them. In this sense everything that comes from love is a miracle.”
All Spiritual Paths Lead to the Same Truth
Williamson points out that there is only one Truth that all spiritual paths lead to – this is evident in the way knowledge from across a wide range of spiritual and religious doctrines dovetail with each other. The principles are simple, but life is complicated, and having a guiding force to help us reactivate our deep inner knowing works wonders for opening up our path to recovery.
Your Spiritual Journey
In alignment with the teachings of Marianne Williamson, Serenity Vista fully embraces an integration of spiritual exploration of universal spiritual truths, twelve step philosophy and fellowship, evidence based recovery therapies, and holistic healing of body, mind and spirit.
At Serenity Vista, we create an intimate, nurturing space in which you can safely begin your spiritual journey. Explore your own life transformations. Our peaceful and naturally abundant environment in Boquete, Panama nourishes your soul while our experienced team of therapists support you through transcending your addiction.